A Fresh, Simple Italian Menu That Will Make You Feel Like You're in a Tuscan Vineyard!
At Your Leisure
When the sun is shining and you have a blissfully free afternoon ahead, adopt the Italian approach to meal planning. Create a menu from ingredients so fresh and flavorful that they need only minimal preparation. As you’re cooking, pause to enjoy the process -- mixing dough for pasta, squeezing lemons into a bowl of greens, toasting bread with olive oil. Then sit down with friends and family for a lunch that’s light and bright yet balanced and satisfying. Take it slowly, appreciating the food and the company (and, if you’re lucky, the shade of tall trees and a lazy summer breeze) right to the last bite.This olive grove in southern Tuscany is a dreamy setting for a meal that just might take all afternoon; our refreshing rendition of a languorous Italian lunch puts the emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit.
Begin with watermelon-cucumber coolers spiked with Aperol, an Italian aperitif made with herbs, bitter orange, and rhubarb.
Triple the offerings but not the effort by making one big batch of toasts, spreading fresh ricotta on each but then varying the toppings. From left: Olive oil is sprinkled with cracked black pepper. Nutty sesame oil is a surprising addition to broccoli rabe; it tempers the bitterness of the hearty green. In the cherry-tomato topping, sautéed anchovies lend a rich brininess (and not a hint of fishiness).
Chopped Arugula, Radicchio, and Parsley Salad
Toss together a colorful salad of radicchio, arugula, and parsley with an addictive, savory seasoning made from ovendried olives and sesame seeds.
Pasta is also simple -- and fun -- to make; for cavatelli, roll out “ropes” of the dough and cut them into pieces to shape by hand.
Cavatelli with Spinach, Caramelized Fennel, and Fried Eggs
A harmonious but unexpected mix of flavors and textures makes this meatless main course shine: First roast fennel with lemons, then combine it with spinach and cooked cavatelli pasta. Finish each serving with a fried egg -- the soft yolk coats everything like a silky sauce.
Caramelized Figs with Honey and Cheese
Italians don’t go overboard on rich desserts; indeed, caramelized figs with nuts and honey, sheep’s-milk pecorino cheese, and cookielike wheatmeal crackers are the ideal sweet-and-salty (and not too heavy) ending to a summer afternoon.